Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Is Egypt an Ally? An Update

by Elliott Abrams
September 13, 2012


Is Egypt an ally of the United States?

Yesterday President Obama said “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.”

The problem is that in 1989 Egypt was declared a “Major Non-NATO ally.” Indeed it was among the first group of nations given that status, along with Australia, Japan, Israel, and South Korea.

So it is fair to ask if that status should now be revoked. If it is not an ally at all, it can’t be a “Major Non-NATO Ally.”

More questions: if it not an ally, when did that happen? Is the President really saying that when Mohamed Morsi was elected, Egypt stopped being an American ally? If Egypt is no longer an ally, should the level and type of military aid we give not be reviewed? Perhaps the President did not realize, when he spoke the words quoted here, that saying Egypt is not an ally–or more accurately, is no longer an ally–was a statement with many implications.


When asked today about Egypt’s status, the White House spokesman said this: “I think folks are reading way too much into this. ‘Ally’ is a legal term of art. We don’t have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies. But as the president has said, Egypt is longstanding and close partner of the United States, and we have built on that foundation by supporting Egypt’s transition to democracy and working with the new government.”

Nice try, I think, and about the best that can be done to fix the President’s error. If ‘ally’ is a term of art, how can a country be a major non-NATO ally and not be an ally? Next time the spokesman should try that wonderful old line, “what the minister meant to say….”




Post a Comment 8 Comments

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    Being the slippery character that he is , Obama left himself a way out … or in … depending on one’s point of view . In debate there’s “pro” and “con” . With Obama there’s “pro-con” !

  • Posted by fred

    When did the change happen ? Really ? I’m sure the entire package to Egypt is “under review”, thus the veiled threat. Like we are going to give them money if they don’t honor the treaty with Israel? Or our embassy ? There is no error. We have no way of knowing what is going to grow out of the Arab spring seeds.

  • Posted by sharongraves

    Any nation that attacks our embasy should have all its aid revoked! That is an act of war, is it not???

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    I think Carney was talking about “abstract art” . Obama may be in his “Blue Period” .

  • Posted by Steve

    Egypt is not our ally, in any normal sense, the term as used in legislation may as well be watermelon. It has no connection to the actual meaning of the word ally.

  • Posted by TheTrue2

    I think the President is being cautious because Egypt is still a country in transition. The Brotherhood has the political control, but, the military organization is still a power center that need to be dealt with…there is also the radical extremist and how is the Brotherhood going to contend with them….I won’t be surprise if they offer them positions in government ( if they haven’t already) to prevent terrorist acts that can de-rail the new government. At the end, Egypt is an Islamic Republic with Shari’ah as its basis and not the Anglo-Saxon Model of government everyone in the West seem to be wishing for. There will be no separation of Religion and State and we are still the infidels to the population. The only thing that looks like Western government is going to be elections…now this does not mean that we can’t have civilized relations with them…so President Obama said the right thing about how he views Egypt.

  • Posted by Chuck Washington, DC

    Egypt is NOT considered a US ally. To break this down for people reading this, some people are considered your FRIENDS (people you will invite to your home) and some people are considered ASSOCIATES (people you will invite out to a public event). Egypt is an ASSOCIATE of the US point blank. Our President was right and very prompt about his answer. Being apart of the Major non-NATO ally is saying you will receive help only in catastrophic events.

  • Posted by Jon

    Some bloggers are working very hard to cover for President Obama. While expected if you are in his camp, his level of experience in affairs of state suggest that he had editorial help from either wiser heads at NSC (but who? probably Panetta or his staff) or the professionals at the State Dept. the statement was worded way too carefully to NOT have come off the teleprompter. the statement itself is a cover which allows the US to do or say just about anything as matters develop in Egypt and the larger Middle East.

    I would apologize for the cynicism, but it’s otherwise warranted. the statement is too close to voting “present”; so maybe BHO is comfortable with it.

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